Stable Life proudly works collaboratively with the following organizations:
The Wisconsin Division of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services - the Bureau of Prevention Treatment and Recovery (BPTR)
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) NAMI National
"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."
Joann Stephens, President and Founder
Joann's family moved to Westfield from northern Wisconsin when she was three years old. She attended the Westfield School District and graduated for the Pioneer Westfield High School in 1991. Joann married Michael Stephens in 1993 and they have three biological children and support many more.
"I left my career in insurance to recover from my mental illness and to help my daughter move through her struggles. I don't know that I would have ever done any more than just treat my depression and quietly live my life, but when my daughter's struggles became significant, I wanted to show her that she had no reason to hide. She could get treatment, and support, and be treated with dignity and respect in the process. I wanted better for her than what was generally available within the fragmented mental health system and in the way our society views mental illness.
I have learned that having a mental illness is not a personal weakness or something to be ashamed of. These are are biological disorders, they are treatable and most have over an 80% recovery rate. I believe that the days of treating mental illness like a dark family secret are vanishing, as we're beginning to see many public people and celebrities talk of their experiences with struggles. In the last 10 years there have been major advancements in brain science linking early childhood adversity to these illnesses and deepening our understanding of the importance of social emotional development and building resiliency in our youth.
People ask 'how do horses help people who struggle with mental illness?' I grew up with horses and instinctively knew that many of the strengths I have came from the relationships I had with these magnificent animals. I recognized that I was very fortunate to have a horse through my youth and young adulthood. I wanted to build a place where anyone who wanted to be with horses could participate freely. Our program is designed to enhance social skills by providing the person with a deep bond with the horse as well as with the other participants in the equine activity program. It helps individuals gain a heightened self esteem and build up their confidence. This horse program keeps me stable enough to do the advocacy work that I do in the world.
This has been an incredible journey - personally, professionally and as an organization. I thought I was starting a little horse program and ended up becoming a leader in macro level systems change. I have had many opportunities to learn about healing concepts and apply them to my life, and use my experiences to improve services throughout the state. I went from being totally disabled by my illness and wondering if I would ever again be a contributing member of society to having a high level influence that will affect many people for years to come. It is all quite humbling.
I have the best life. I get to balance my time between the horse program and advocacy and systems change efforts. I couldn't be more blessed to have this work in my life."
Highlights of Joann's contributions:
Citizen member Legislative Council Study on Problem Solving Courts 2014
Wisconsin Council on Mental Health (WICMH) July 2005 through June 2014 (3 full 3 year terms)
Executive Committee member 2007-Present
2nd Vice Chair 2011 - 2013
Co-Chair of the Criminal Justice Committee 2007-Present
WICMH liaison to SCAODA Wisconsin State Council on Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse 2010 to 2013
Representative at National Planning Council 2012
Wisconsin Trauma Informed Care Advisory Committee and state Trauma Champion Lead Mentor and Trainer 2008-Present
Presenter with the Wisconsin Bureau of Prevention, Treatment and Recovery (BPTR DHS) since 2006 for Consumer Listening Sessions, Recovery Concepts, Recovery Oriented Systems Assessment, Person Centered Planning, and Trauma Informed Care
Wisconsin Alliance on Infant Mental Health (WIAIMH) Advisory Board member and presenter 2008 – 2009, Board Member 2014 – Present
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Wisconsin Board of Directors, Executive Committee, Consumer Council Chair, National Consumer Council Representative 2004-2008
NAMI Mid Central WI affiliate president 2004-2008
Trainer / Presenter with Mental Health America of Wisconsin 2007-2009
Joann has spoken to over 4,000 mental health consumers, providers of mental health services and community members in the state of Wisconsin, providing trainings to mental health professionals in 42 counties, several Advocacy and Peer organizations, community groups and private mental health treatment facilities. She presents on topics of recovery and best practices in mental health treatment and tailors material to suit the needs of a variety of audiences including employee training, organization staffing, community awareness, spiritual leaders, and consumer groups. She has spoken in national mental health events in Washington D.C. and has represented Wisconsin on the National level in multiple functions through the years.
Check out her introduction to Trauma Training here.
She received the NAMI WI Consumer Council Jim Maddox Peer of the Year award in May of 2012 to acknowledge the work she has done throughout the state of Wisconsin.
In June of 2014 Joann was offered a position in the newly created WI Office of Children's Mental Health (OCMH) as the Family Relations Coordinator. The OCMH reports directly to the Governor and Legislature and is tasked with coordinating children's mental health services within the state. Joann's primary role is to infuse meaningful family involvement in systems change efforts at the highest decision making levels in all departments and divisions that touch the lives of WI children. Learn more about the OCMH at children.wi.gov
Michael Stephens, Treasurer
Mike's family has been coming to the Westfield area from their home in Beloit for many years before he was born. They built a cabin on School Section Lake and were frequent visitors to the area throughout Mike's childhood. He met Joann at a community event in Westfield just after he graduated from high school in 1990.
Mike has been supporting the growth of the organization since Joann started it. He has often said that "Joann's mission is Stable Life and my mission is Joann". He goes out of his way to make things fun for the kids who come to the farm. On hot days he will bring out totes full of water balloons to toss around and cool off, or he will wander around handing kids freezy pops or other treats. You can bet there are shenanigans when Mike is on the farm!
In 2018 Mike will be starting a community garden and orchard at Stable Life. He loves to garden and recognizes that it can be difficult for people to have access to fresh vegetables and fruits. He built a greenhouse to start his seedlings earlier in the year and plans to increase his garden size by three fold.
Corbi Stephens, Youth Advocate / Youth Mentor
Corbi has lived in Westfield most of her life, graduating from Pioneer Westfield High School in 2010. Corbi's experiences navigating systems through her life were the inspiration for Joann to start the Stable Life organization.
Corbi uses her lived experience to help systems change to meet the needs of children who struggle. On the state level, she is involved with the WI Children's Mental Health Collective Impact Coalition (WCMHCI), and serves as a co-chair to the Collective Impact Parent and Youth Partners as well as co-chair to the WCMHCI Resilience Workgroup. You can visit her bio here and read about the work of the Resilience Workgroup here.
In her advocacy work she has had the opportunity to work with the Youth MOVE National organization and the WI Department of Health Services to develop a video to raise awareness of mental health issues and combat stigma. Watch the video here.
She also participated in a national project through the Resilience Workgroup of the WCMHCI and her group developed a video to spread awareness of the steps being taken in Wisconsin to increase resiliency. Watch the video here.
On the local level she participates in the Marquette County Comprehensive Community Services (CCS) Coordinating Committee as well as the Central WI Health Partnership Regional Coordinating Committee.
Corbi provides mentorship and respite services to youth who struggle. She has an incredible ability to connect with youth who need extra support and has a tremendous amount of success in working with them. She has been working on becoming CCS Certified to provide mentorship services to youth in Marquette and surrounding counties.
In 2018 Corbi hopes to attend the training to be a Certified Peer Specialist and start to provide transition services to youth who are transitioning into adulthood. Learn about certified peer specialists here!
The Stable Life Mission Statement:
Our mission is to enhance recovery and the quality of life for persons affected by mental, emotional, trauma and substance
use disorders through self-determination and empowerment, and through family and community education, acceptance, and
In pursuit of this mission, Stable Life:
Encourages public acceptance of mental health struggles through community awareness and education in order to stop stigma and promote a supportive community for our friends, family members, and neighbors who are affected.
Unites persons affected by mental illness through support groups, social events, and community education programs and to give them the opportunity to create support networks, learn and share coping techniques, and realize the power in numbers.
Builds individual's strengths, relationships, protective factors and natural supports to help people become more resilient and move toward recovery.
Provides an environment based on understanding, compassion, and empathy, one that is free of fear, prejudice, and discrimination.
Helps each person gain a better knowledge of the illness that affects their lives, improve their quality of life, find confidence in themselves, and to elevate their overall outlook on life.
Partners with a variety of established organizations dedicated to assisting people affected by mental illness and improving their quality of life.
OUR YOUTH LEADERS